A more effective, economical tracking and communication technology took
flight today.

The recent Space-based Telemetry And Range Safety (STARS) flight
demonstration is one in a series of eight tests comprising Flight
Demonstration 1. The tests demonstrate the capability to utilize existing
space-based platforms such as the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System
(TDRSS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to provide reliable
communication, telemetry and tracking for Range Safety and Range Users.

Range Safety support includes flight termination processing from both space
and ground assets and vehicle tracking. Range User support includes high
return-link data rates for voice, video and vehicle/payload data.

STARS’ methods surpass existing ground-based systems for maintaining
tracking and communication with space launch vehicles. According to STARS
Project Manager Lisa Valencia, current practices are outdated, and very
expensive to operate and maintain, and estimates show that using these new
methods could reduce costs by up to $40 million per year.

Valencia explained that this was a “high dynamics” flight with STARS
hardware and antennas located in the aircraft. “The F-15B aircraft did
rolls, loops, turns, cloverleafs, pushover-pullups, went straight up while
doing a roll, and more,” she said. “Some of the other tests are straight and
level or short in duration. These dynamic maneuvers will help determine
antenna coverage.”

While the hour-plus flights occur at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
(DFRC), STARS work, which supports Next Generation Launch Technology (NGLT),
is managed by Kennedy Space Center. DFRC provides the aircraft, the range,
the control room and the Range User hardware. Goddard Space Flight Center,
Wallops Flight Facility and White Sands Complex also share STARS
responsibilities along with other NASA centers.

“After the eight flight tests that make up Flight Demonstration 1 are
complete, we will release a report. We will use the results to help us
define some goals for Flight Demonstration 2 (FD2),” said Valencia. “FD2 is
a series of five flight tests scheduled to take place September 2004. We are
also planning to fly our STARS package on a hypersonic vehicle in 2006.”

NGLT combines previous Space Launch Initiative research and development
efforts with cutting-edge, advanced space-transportation programs to
increase the safety, reliability and cost-effectiveness associated with
developing the nation’s next-generation reusable launch vehicle.

Visit www.slinews.com, for further NGLT information.